By Mark V. Lonsdale

For all the judoka who did not do as well as they expected in their championships this past week. Don’t just chalk it up as a loss and forget about it. Study your performance in the various matches, but more importantly, analyze your preparation for the championship. Whatever you did, or did not do, it may have had gaps. Do a gap analysis of your own training, then study those that did well and their training regimes. See if there is room for improvement in your endurance, strength, technical, tactical and mental preparation.

Championship Judo Training

Championship Judo Training

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Even though Judo can be many things to many people – a martial art, self defense, sport, or just recreation – it is still a codified activity steeped in tradition. These traditions include standards of behavior, dojo and mat etiquette, a uniform, and the use of Japanese terminology for training, techniques, and in competition. However, there are some disturbing trends emerging in Judo clubs across the country:

1. The sensei turns up late for class, with students standing at the door to the gym when the class is scheduled to start. Mats are not laid in time for class.
2. The sensei rolls into the dojo five minutes after the class was scheduled to start; then spends another five minutes talking to his buddies before starting the class. This is disrespectful to the students.
3. The head instructor is on the mat teaching in shorts and a t-shirt when all the students are in judogi. This is a poor example.
4. Students are not required to bow on or off the mat, and classes do not bow in correctly.
5. No effort is made to ensure the students’ belts are tied correctly.
6. Students arrive at training bare-foot; while others leave the mat and go to the bathroom without putting their shoes on. Others walk across the mats with their shoes on prior to class.
7. The sensei wears a dirty gi, or an odd combination of colored gi. Or the Judo instructor is teaching a Judo class but wearing a ju jitsu gi
8. Japanese terminology is not used for the names of the techniques or in club-level match referring.
9. At tournaments, Judo sensei and coaches demonstrate no knowledge of the current rules for mat-side coaching, including, yelling at the ref, putting their shoes on the mat, drinking and eating in the coach’s chair, yelling at their students, berating their students mat-side causing them to cry if they did not win.
10. Much of this can be attributed to Judo instructors, completely lacking in formal Judo training, being given high dan-grades by associations just to get their clubs into the organization. The result is an instructor or coach with little to no knowledge of Judo techniques, terminology, mat etiquette, competition rules, or even Professor Kano’s teachings or philosophies.

While some of the above will be seen at competition training camps, they should not be evident at the dojo level. Judo is much more than just wrestling or grappling with a gi on. The sensei and instructors should be setting the example and standards for the students, and these include staying true to the traditions and etiquette of good Judo.

One way to correct the above deviations from good Judo would be national and regional training camps, taught by national technical directors and senior Kodansha (high grades), for the sole purpose of national quality control and quality assurance within the greater Judo community. These are common in Europe and Japan but virtually unheard of in the US in that past 20 years. So maybe it is time to return to the practice of national high-grade training camps and seminars.


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The Importance of Repetition in Judo

Lonsdale Judo Training

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By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

Ever wonder how judo champions can run a ten-man slaughter line using only a limited number of techniques, winning six out of ten fights with their signature uchi-mata or tokui-waza? Even though everyone in the lineup already knows that these techniques will be used against them.

I wondered the same thing when former World Champion and Tokai University coach Nobuyuki Sato bounced me all over the mat for 10 minutes using nothing but tai-otoshi. Granted, I was only 20 years old at the time, but if you want to learn their secrets, read on….  

Developing a winning judo technique and becoming a champion is not rocket science. In theory it is quite simple but, in practice, not so easy. It is in the attempted implementation of the following that the judoka will discover whether or not he or she has the dedication and perseverance to make the grade.

The short answer to the super-waza puzzle is to simply train harder, longer, more often, and smarter than your opponents. To expand on that, here is how it works:

  1. Select and develop a nice clean “big ippon” technique, for example uchi-mata (commonly used by many champions)
  2. Practice two or three different lines of attack, such as a direct entry, a circular entry to the right, and a step-back spinning entry (just examples).
  3. Do more uchi-komi than the other judoka in your dojo. If they are doing 100, then you do 200 or 300, but keep the movements clean and correct. Remember, it is not practice that makes perfect, but perfect practice that makes perfect.  Uchi-komi can also be done at home with a belt or uchi-komi bands around a post or a strong hook in the wall.
  4. Incorporate forty or fifty nage-komi each day, throwing into a crash pad, so that you can develop the feeling of throwing at full speed and with full power.
  5. Practice applying this technique relentlessly in randori, to the exclusion of other techniques while you are perfecting this one. Begin with easier opponents to work on your timing and technique, and then work your way up to more experienced fighters.  
  6. Develop several setups and combinations (renraku-waza) that end with this technique, for example, ouchi-gari to uchi-mata, or sasae-tsurikomi-ashi to uchi-mata, etc.
  7. Develop the stamina and endurance to attack relentlessly for 5 minutes in a match. Keep in mind that endurance in judo is a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
  8. Develop the physical strength equal to other competitors in your age and weight division; this includes arms, legs and core. For example, when competing at a light-heavy weight I knew that most of the top competitors could bench-press 250 pounds, so that became my first strength development target.

And there you have it! Within a few months, and with the appropriate intensity and frequency, you will begin down the path to becoming a superior athlete, with a superior technique, that will come reflexively in randori and competition. The more you make the conscious effort to attack with this technique, the sooner it will come automatically in randori and shiai.

If this sounds simplistic, it is. But if you are not willing to follow this advice, then you will fail at the higher levels of competition. Why you may ask? Because the other serious

D. Kobayashi (JPN), Under 100kg champion, and Mark Lonsdale (USA) during the  Kodokan's Summer Training Technical Session, July 2013

D. Kobayashi (JPN), Under 100kg champion, and Mark Lonsdale (USA) during the Kodokan’s Summer Training Technical Session, July 2013

competitors are already doing this, therefore you need to be doing more than them. So train hard, train often, train smart, and listen to your coach.


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By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

strength Yamamoto


Most followers of Judo Training Development, whether student, competitor, or coach, will have some understanding of what it takes to build a competitor in Judo, but what does it mean to de-construct a competitor? Anyone who has trained with elite level coaches in Europe or Japan will understand this process, but the process is equally valid for the club level sensei or coach.

The purpose of de-construction is to rebuild the foundation.

Using a high-rise building as an example, if the structure is built on a soft, sub-standard foundation it is sure to fail. Construction may begin well for the first few levels, but as the building gets taller, the weaknesses in the foundation will become more apparent. Eventual the weight of the building will exceed the strength of the foundation and the building will crack, sag, and topple. This is why buildings are constructed on solid ground, or the foundations are sunk deep enough to reach bedrock.

The same is true for competitive judoka. If the foundational training in the principles of Judo is absent or weak, then the competitor will eventually hit a point where he or she is not advancing or improving. This may be mistaken for a training plateau, but simply training harder will not solve the problem. The elite athlete who consistently places 5th but never 1st or 2nd year after year, may want to ask why they are not improving? The astute judo coach should probably make the athlete take several steps back, to break bad habits or improve weak techniques (de-construction), before rebuilding the technical foundation needed to support forward progress.

An example that comes to mind was a junior blue belt visiting from another club. He was thirteen years old, and going by the back-patch on his judogi, he had fought at the USA Junior Nationals. At first glance he exhibited all the characteristics of a seasoned junior competitor. He was solidly built, had a good appreciation for grip fighting, and attacked as soon as he had a grip. The problem was that he had no effective judo techniques and no concept of set-ups or combinations. Therefore, he was unable to throw any opponent in randori. In talking to him, it became evident that he had never been schooled in Kodokan Judo, did not know the difference between a tai-otoshi or a harai-goshi, and knew none of the Japanese terminology for tachi-waza or newaza.

As it turned out, this boy was from a non-traditional fight club that also practiced wrestling, Sambo, and MMA grappling. None of his instructors were formally trained Judo sensei or coaches in the true sense, and Judo was simply one of the many activities offered at their grappling club. The result was that this young fighter would probably plateau at the junior level and never grow into a well rounded judoka with a comprehensive repertoire of effective Judo techniques. The prescriptive training, if this was one of my students or athletes, would be to step back from competition for 6 months to a year, and begin developing this young athlete’s technical Judo skills.

This was a lesson I learned, first-hand, in my late teens training with Japanese university champions and French light-middleweight and middleweight champions. I was a light-heavyweight at the time, and even though they were much smaller and lighter, they were able to consistently throw me with speed, timing, and good technique. This encouraged me to become a better technician.

A similar problem is often seen with novice Senior competitors who may be physically very strong or overweight. At the lower levels of club randori and competition they are able to rack up some wins with pure strength and size, but in depending on strength alone they fail to develop speed, timing, and technique. By the time they begin competing in Senior competition with brown and black belts they are being bounced all over the tatami or being penalized for stiff-arm defensive fighting.

The prescriptive training, in these cases, is de-construction, which involves forcing the judoka to stop using strength and develop better Judo habits. This requires focusing on good Judo: good clean techniques, frequent sets of moving uchikomi, nagekomi, and light randori with higher grades. Every time the coach or higher grade feels the player muscling up, they should throw that individual. The objective is to demonstrate that speed, timing, and technique will beat brute strength. Teaching and mastering ashi-waza (foot sweeps) is also a valuable tool to improve technique and timing.

Only once a solid foundation of good Judo techniques & time has been ingrained into the judoka or competitor, should the coach then allow the athlete to add power. But keep in mind that developing power in Judo is more than just strength. Power is derived from good technique and an understanding of the bio-mechanics of each technique or tokui-waza; not just from using one’s arms to muscle an opponent to the mat.

To conclude, de-construction is a viable coaching technique for both club sensei(s) and competitive coaches. It allows the coach to take a physically strong or heavy individual and rebuild them as a better technician. Only once they have mastered speed, timing and the technical subtleties of their tokui-waza will they be able to grow and advance as judoka and competitors.

Remember the judo training progression: learn the technique first, then the timing, then add speed, and finally add power. Then develop a family of set-ups and combinations around that technique.


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More on Repetition in Judo

When learning a new technique, judo practice begins by thinking through the mechanics of a technique and then repeating the movements, by the numbers, multiple times. This then evolves into hundreds of uchi-komi and nage-komi. But true success in judo is seen when that new technique comes reflexively in randori, executed without thinking. Randori, against an unwilling partner, is the true validation of all that training and repetition. To be successful in randori, or shiai (competition), throws, counters, and combinations must be pre-programmed into the neuro-muscle memory, where they can be triggered by the movements, actions, or reactions of your opponent. The perfect Ippon is often executed reflexively, surprising both Uke and Tori.

Lonsdale Judo Training

 Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

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